Seconds (1966 film)  

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"It was at the time common practice to film racy alternate scenes with nudity and sexual content for the European market. The orgy Bacchus scene, with a crowd singing wildly the "Drunken Sailor", must have appeared risqué a year before the Summer of Love broke. "--Sholem Stein


"Although the mobile camera and experimental lens work (expertly executed by James Wong Howe), along with Ted Haworth's surreal sets, revealed Frankenheimer's art-film ambitions, the film was given a hostile reception when it launched at Cannes."--A Little Solitaire: John Frankenheimer and American Film (2011) by edited by Murray Pomerance and R. Barton Palmer

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Seconds is a 1966 American science-fiction drama film directed by John Frankenheimer and starring Rock Hudson. The screenplay by Lewis John Carlino was based on Seconds, a novel by David Ely. The film was entered into the 1966 Cannes Film Festival and released by Paramount Pictures. The cinematography by James Wong Howe was nominated for an Academy Award.

In 2015, the United States Library of Congress selected the film for preservation in the National Film Registry, finding it "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".

Seconds did poorly on its initial release, but has since become a cult classic.

In the film The Pervert's Guide to Ideology, the psychoanalytical Marxist philosopher Slavoj Žižek discusses the film as an example of what happens when desires are fulfilled.

Contents

Historical context

John Frankenheimer directed Seconds just after the period during which he worked on his most notable films, Birdman of Alcatraz (1962), The Manchurian Candidate (1962), and Seven Days in May (1964). These last two films together with Seconds are sometimes known as Frankenheimer's 'paranoia trilogy'.

Seconds became known for its connection to the Beach Boys' Brian Wilson. The story, which originated in the October 1967 magazine article "Goodbye Surfing, Hello God!", goes that when he arrived late to a theater showing of Seconds, he appeared to be greeted with the onscreen dialogue, "Come in, Mr. Wilson." He was convinced for some time that rival producer Phil Spector (one of the film's investors) was taunting him through the movie, and that it was written about his recent traumatic experiences and intellectual pursuits, going so far as to note that "even the beach was in it, a whole thing about the beach." He later cancelled the Beach Boys' forthcoming album Smile, and the film reportedly frightened him so much that he did not visit another movie theater until 1982's E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial.

Plot

Arthur Hamilton (John Randolph) is a middle-aged man whose life has lost purpose. He has achieved success, but finds it unfulfilling. His love for his wife has dwindled, and he seldom sees his only child. Through a friend, Charlie, whom he thought was dead, Hamilton is approached by a secret organization, known simply as the "Company", which offers him a new life. He ruminates on the proposition as he rides a commuter train on his way home. His wife meets him as he arrives home, but it is apparent that he is alienated from her.

Hamilton arrives at a meat-packing plant for a meeting. He is given workman overalls and hat, then exits the facility by a different door and is seated inside a truck that takes him to another building. He disappears into a large complex filled with dark, empty hallways, where he awaits his transformation. The Company gives Hamilton the body of a young man (Hudson) through plastic surgery, and a new identity, namely "Antiochus 'Tony' Wilson". He later discovers this identity has been taken from someone who recently died.

He is resettled into a community filled with people like him who are "reborns". Eventually, Hamilton decides the new life is not what he wants. He contacts the Company, letting them know he wants a different identity, and they agree, taking him back to wait for his new identity. There, he meets Charlie, who has also wished to go under yet another "rebirth". Charlie is chosen and walked away from the waiting room. Later during the night, the owner of the Company discusses his original purpose for founding the organization, and assures Hamilton that the issues he has brought up will be looked into. Hamilton realizes as he is wheeled into the operating room, before being sedated, that he is to be killed. His body will be used as the catalyst (corpse) for a new patient to be reborn. The film ends with the camera panning up to a surgical light as a drill is brought down: as he loses consciousness, he has a memory of two figures walking along a beach; the image distorts and loses resolution.

Cast

Production

The director of photography for Seconds was James Wong Howe, who pioneered novel techniques in black-and-white cinematography, and whose career spanned nearly five decades. He was nominated for an Oscar at the 39th Academy Awards for his work on the film. Seconds was Frankenheimer and Howe's last film in black-and-white.

Rock Hudson was five inches taller than his movie counterpart, John Randolph; the difference in their heights was worked around with carefully chosen camera angles. Hudson and Randolph also spent a good deal of time together before production began, allowing Hudson to model Randolph's mannerisms, to resemble him more closely.

In Frankenheimer's commentary on the DVD, he notes:

  • The depiction of Hamilton's plastic surgery includes several shots of an actual rhinoplasty operation. Director John Frankenheimer made several of these shots himself after the cameraman fainted.
  • The DVD includes footage deleted from the American theatrical version depicting nude revelers at a wine festival. Frankenheimer had also intended to restore a scene in which the transformed Hamilton visits his daughter, but the footage could not be found.
  • The scenes in Tony Wilson's Malibu beach house were shot in Frankenheimer's own home.
  • To shoot in Grand Central Station without attracting too much attention, Frankenheimer hired a male model and a Playboy "bunny" to make out on the stairs while being filmed by a fake crew. This distraction allowed the real crew to shoot with a camera in a suitcase.

The opening titles were designed by Saul Bass, using Helvetica set in white over optically warped black-and-white motion picture photography.

See also




Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Seconds (1966 film)" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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